Regent Skipper (Euschemon rafflesia)

Scientific Classification

Domain: Eukaryota

Kingdom: Animalia

Subkingdom: Metazoa

Phylum: Arthropoda

Class: Insecta

Order: Lepidoptera

Suborder: Rhopalocera

Family: Hesperidae

Subfamily: Euschemoninae

Genus: Euschemon

Species: Euschemon rafflesia

Common name: Regent Skipper


Description

Viewed from above (dorsal side) the adult's wings are very dark brown to black with bright yellow stripes. There are slate blue markings on the forewings. The body is largely dark brown to black with yellow banding. The abdomen is red. The body is covered in setae, a substance with a similar look and feel to fur, although it evolved separately.

Viewed from below (ventral side) the wings have a greenish tinge, wing patterning is similar.

Adult wingspan from tip to tip is approximately 50mm.

Pupae (chrysalides) are white with black spots.

Larvae (caterpillars) are green with black and white stripes. The head is black, the posterior is yellow. They have two short horn shaped appendages at the front end (anterior) which are also yellow.

Eggs are spherical, white in colour and ribbed.


Habitat and Distribution

Euschemon rafflesia (Regent Skipper) is found in the Queensland and New South Wales territories of Australia, including on the island of Tasmania. Subspecies E. rafflesia alba inhabits the more tropical areas of Queensland. They are commonly seen in gardens, parks and anywhere their larval foodplants from from the Monimiaceae (Wilkiea) family grow.


Behaviour and Genetics

This species is something of a behavioural and genetic oddity. Although classified Rhopalocera (butterflies), they have some traits usually more common in Heterocera (moths).

With the exception of Hedylidae (a novel family of American moth-butterflies) they are the only true butterfly to have developed a frenulum and a retinaculum. Together these form a structure on the wings consisting of a spine on the hindwing and a loop on the forewing. They couple to form a kind of latch that prevents the hindwing riding over the forewing.

E. rafflesia are readily attracted to light sources - as most moths are.


Lifecycle

Females lay single eggs on Wilkiea shrubs, especially Steganthera laxiflora (Jiman) Wilkiea macrophylla (Large Leafed Wilkiea) Wilkiea austroqueenslandica (Smooth Wilkiea) Wilkiea pubescens (Tetra Beech) and Wilkiea huegeliana (Veiny Wilkiea). The egg is usually laid on the underside of the leaf. ​ Once hatched, the larvae (caterpillars) construct a shelter for themselves by cutting part of the leaf, folding it back and attaching the two parts with silk. They feed at night. ​ The larvae pupate once fully fed inside the shelter. ​ Adult butterflies appear in the later part of September and breed regularly until March, usually completing three generations within six months.